The Panthers traded up to select Brown in the second round, looking for some talent to compensate for the expected loss of Julius Peppers. Despite the concerns about his size, the coaching staff had high hopes for Brown entering last season.
As a whole, Brown did not produce as expected. He chalked up 22 tackles and 2.5 sacks during his rookie season. While these numbers weren't terrible, it takes a lot to justify the move the Panthers made to acquire him.
DE Everette Brown
Greg Hardy's situation was eerily similar. He also put up monster numbers in college and would have probably been a first-round pick had scouts not been swayed by his injury status. Hardy had surgery on a broken bone in his right foot while in college, so it became a question as to whether he would be injury-prone throughout his NFL career.
Nonetheless, he Panthers took a chance on Hardy in the sixth round in hopes of replacing some of the impact of the departed Peppers.
So far this season, Hardy has 22 tackles and two sacks--very similar to Brown's first-year numbers. However, Hardy seems to be most active on special teams. Multiple times this season, Hardy has been the first defender waiting to tackle the opposing return-man on a punt.
One advantage Hardy has is the chance to learn from veterans Tyler Brayton and Charles Johnson. While the offensive rookies have been thrown to the wolves, Hardy has been able to ease his way into the league as a rookie should -- by learning from veterans and playing based on his progress.
It's been mostly Johnson -- with his nine sacks and 44 tackles -- who has stepped up to replace Peppers' contributions. But Hardy could certainly dethrone Brayton if he plays to his potential and stays ahead of fellow rookie Eric Norwood.
For now, it looks like Hardy is on the right path, but he must put up the numbers if he wants to show he's improving faster than Brown did. With Brown on IR, Hardy can take advantage of the last three games to prove it.
Alex Montgomery is a graduate of Western Carolina University with a degree in Professional Writing. He has worked for the Western Carolinian and his hometown newspaper, the Kernersville News. He currently resides in Charlotte, NC. You can see more of his updates by following him on Twitter.